The promise of universal child benefits: The foundational policy for economic and social development

Eurochild member Learning for Wellbeing released with ILO and UNICEF a policy brief on how child benefits can build stronger social protection systems.

Child poverty results in profound costs to children and the societies and economies in which they live. Approximately 50 countries currently operate some form of universal child benefits (UCB) policy, but there exists wide variation in benefit amounts, delivery, coverage and other aspects. Policy design has a decisive effect on results.

This brief explains what UCBs are, catalogues where and on what terms they currently exist around the world, reviews the existing evidence on how UCBs contribute to child poverty reduction and other goals, identifies specific design considerations to create an optimally designed UCB policy and outlines the goals that UCBs can help to meet when designed well.

Key points from the brief:

  • Progress in increasing effective global social protection coverage for children has been modest and unequal, even as the challenges faced by children continue to grow.
  • The unfolding climate crisis together with other recent crises have shown the importance of social protection systems in upholding the rights of children and protecting them from the acceleration in child poverty triggered by these crises.
  • Significant underinvestment in social protection has contributed to persistent gaps in coverage for children.
  • Universal child benefits (UCBs) are the foundational policy for child and social development.
  • The evidence shows UCBs to be a cost-effective way to reduce child poverty in both absolute and relative terms, with the potential to meet a broader array of social and economic goals.
  • This brief identifies a set of policy design considerations, informed by international social security standards, intended to support countries considering enhancing or establishing a UCB.
  • A well-designed and adequate UCB that ensures universal coverage can provide the foundation for a comprehensive social protection system for children that also enhances the design and delivery of other services, and promotes broader socio-economic development.

Read the brief

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